Forced to jettison Shashi Tharoor as Minister of State for External Affairs, following damning revelations about his role in the Kochi franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the central government seems to have launched a witch-hunt. The coordinated countrywide income tax surveys and searches of IPL franchisees and broadcasting firms, the behind-the-scenes political machinations, and the unwillingness to wait until the end of this week for the IPL final to be over look very much like a diversionary response — and a vendetta. There is much to be done to see that this hugely successful tournament, now in its third edition, is conducted with transparency and accountability. But what is needed is rectification, not revenge. The government cannot pretend that it knew nothing about the alleged irregularities before IPL Chairman Lalit Modi's tweets and l'affaire Tharoor made them public knowledge. The stink raised by the allegations over the IPL presents an opportunity to address the key issues — the inexplicable confidentiality clauses that draw a veil over ownership of some of the franchises, the nature of the funds that flow into them, and the conflicts of interest involved at several levels of the IPL.
In fact, the present crisis presents an opportunity for a deep rethink about the way Indian cricket is governed — at what cost, to whose benefit, for what social purpose? Mr. Modi might have done everything he could to create the impression that the league was his independent fiefdom. But the truth is that the IPL, inspired by the English Premier League, is a creation of the Board of Control for Cricket in India — with its governing council starting out in September 2007 as a sub-committee of the BCCI and graduating three months later to the status of a committee. The Board, which receives substantial tax concessions and other benefits from the state and fills its coffers by cashing in on the Indian public's phenomenal love for the game, cannot distance itself from the rot that has set in. It must take full responsibility for the integrity and transparent governance of its creation and eliminate the rogue elements without compromise. As important, it must reshape and reorient the IPL along the lines advocated in the thoughtful article, “The good, the bad, and the ugly of IPL,” published on this page. With proper social values and priorities and governance reform, India's most glamorous cricket show can indeed become “a giant platform to energise the [cricket-loving] masses for the greater good.” The future of the IPL is in the hands of India's powerful and already highly politicised cricket Board. It must set itself higher goals and standards than we have witnessed over the years.